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Traveler’s Date Cookies

Like shortbread in Scotland, these cookies, called mamoul, are found everywhere in Lebanon and Syria. They’re rich semolina cookies shaped around a date paste perfumed with orange flower water and rose water. They’re a beautiful pale yellow, easy to bite into.–Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Date Cookies Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • For the cookies
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse semolina (a coarse grind, like polenta, not fine semolina flour)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Milk, for brushing
  • For the filling
  • 3/4 cup honey dates
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange flower water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rose water

Directions

  • 1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the orange flower water, egg, and melted butter. Add the semolina and stir in, then sprinkle on the sugar and salt and stir. Add the flour and stir and turn to combine until crumbly but holds together when squeezed. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
  • 2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and set aside, covered.
  • 3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Set out an 18-by-12-inch baking sheet near your work surface.
  • 4. To shape the mamoul (see Note below), use a tablespoon to scoop up a full level tablespoon of dough. Place it in the palm of one hand and use the thumb and fingers of the other hand to flatten it into a nearly 3-inch-diameter round. Scoop up 1 1/2 teaspoons of the filling and place it on the center of the round. Pull the edges up to cover the filling, then roll the cookie lightly between your palms to make a ball. Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, placing the cookies about 1/2-inch apart. Prick each cookie decoratively with a fork. Brush the tops with a little milk.
  • 5. Bake until touched at the edges with golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool.

Note

  • We give instructions here for round mamoul decorated only by pricking with a fork. In Syria and Lebanon, and in some specialty grocery stores in North America, you can find elaborately carved mamoul molds. If you have a mold, oil it with olive oil and then oil again lightly every 3 or 4 mamoul. Fill the mold almost full of dough and use your thumb to press down in the center. This will make a hollow in the center and will also give you thin walls of dough around the edges. You may need less filling, say 1 teaspoon each. Place the filling in the center, then fold the thin walls over and pinch off any excess dough. Pull the shaped mamoul gently from the mold and transfer to the baking sheet, decorative side up. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
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